Even in the wake of the trust issues that erupted from the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica data-privacy scandal, the incident has morphed into a different kind of lesson for small businesses—that the power and influence of social media must be embraced, not feared.

The fact is, the scandal will not deter small biz from the trend of investing more in Facebook, new research reveals—nearly 60 percent of U.S. small businesses plan to spend more time and money on Facebook in 2018, according to a new survey from business news and how-to site The Manifest.

“Facebook’s usership may dip slightly because individuals will choose not to use the platform after news of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica situation, but the platform still remains a key player in building relationships with customers,” said Charlotte Chipperfield, CEO of social media agency Chipperfield Media, in a news release.

Businesses still rely on Facebook as a successful marketing tool.

Despite scandal, more small businesses will increase investment in Facebook

Almost all businesses will increase investment in social media

The reliance on and increased investment in social media is not limited to Facebook, the survey finds—92 percent of small businesses plan to increase their investment in social media overall in 2018.

“More companies see the importance of social media, so more are starting to invest in it,” said Shawn Alain, president of social media agency Viral in Nature, in the release. “That number will keep going up.”

Social media is an essential marketing tool, and the number of businesses relying on it will continue to increase.

Despite scandal, more small businesses will increase investment in Facebook

Engagement is the most important metric

Once businesses invest in social media, how do they measure its worth?

Engagement is the most valued metric businesses use to track the success of their social media efforts—20 percent of small businesses rank it as the most important social media metric.

Engagement demonstrates interest in the content a business is presenting, experts say.

“Engagement is absolutely the best metric to track,” Alain said. “You can have a million followers, but if you’re getting no engagement, you’ve got nothing. You need engagement to succeed on social media.”

Despite scandal, more small businesses will increase investment in Facebook

Half of small businesses pay for social media advertising

Social media advertising has also become an important part of a business’s successful social media strategy, the survey found.

Nearly half (46 percent) of small businesses pay for social media advertising.

“Social media advertising has become more common place,” said Darren Cabral, CEO of social media marketing agency Suits Social, the release reports. “Social media is a pay-to-play game now. Fewer businesses are putting out door hangers and flyers. That money is going to go somewhere, and… they use it for social media.”

Overall, the survey indicates that most businesses value social media and will continue to rely on social media marketing as part of their broader digital marketing efforts.

Read the complete report here.

The Manifest’s 2018 Small Business Social Media Survey included 351 small business owners or managers from across the U.S. with fewer than 500 employees.

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